We had left Tonga
with 25 knot SSE winds and lumpy 3 metre seas. This was the aftermath
of the Storm the previous week but we couldn't really hang around too
much longer as the weather was only going to get worse and more
unpredictable as November wore on...
It was a
bouncy first 24 hours with Monty being the only one who didn't feel a
bit queasy but then he does have a cast-iron stomach !!
Good Sea Dog...
followed by very light winds for the next few days. We were drifting
along between 1 and 3 knots but we weren't actually going backwards
so the Skipper refused to motor... We heard on the VHF that a few of
the other boats on this route were motoring towards the Minerva Reef
to wait for more wind but we decided to just keep hanging on in there
as some wind was bound to come along sooner or later...
By day 4, the
wind had picked up again to about 18 knots from the SE so, with the
small current additionally in our favour, we were reaching nicely at
about 6 knots in roughly the right direction. We had now crossed the
International Dateline so were now halfway around the World and,
officially, on our way home...
The wind was
being very fickle and generally still very light but the journey,
whilst slow, was quite enjoyable. The sea swells were long and
lugubrious so it was not an unpleasant motion and we were eating
day 9, we had thunderstorms and winds gusting 40 knots. A very wet
and miserable night followed but the worst had passed by the morning.
Day 10 saw the Wind God running out of puff yet again - the weather
forecast indicated we were sitting in a rather large 'no wind' box.
The Skipper finally agreed that we should motor for a little bit
rather than continue to wallow at 1.5 knots so we popped the engine
on at 3pm until 7am the next day and made 70 miles. A 35+ knot squall
appeared in the early hours of day 12 which, whilst wet and
unpleasant, did mean that we were making progress at a good 7
in New Zealand after 13 days at Sea and 1,352 miles. As it was the weekend, we had
been given permission to anchor (without landing) off a small Island
just outside Auckland harbour until we could approach the Customs
Quay on Monday morning so it was time to relax and enjoy one last
night with the boys before they were whisked away...
One tired puppy...
Unlike most yachts who stop initially at Opua, we had chosen Auckland as our New Zealand Port of entry as it was closer to the Quarantine facility for Monty & Basil.
We arrived in Auckland harbour on 26th November and it was delightful to be met by such charming Officials to complete the Customs & Immigration formalities. Needless to say, we had been dreading the moment that the Boys were taken away from us for their Quarantine. This was even worse than we imagined as we were advised that it would be longer than the standard 10 day period as they had not had the necessary Blood tests completed in Tonga. (there were no Vets in Tonga so we were expecting a slight delay but not the estimated additional 2 weeks).
Feeling very lonely without our little four-legged crewmembers, we decided we didn’t really want to go sailing so we took the time to explore Auckland. We were very lucky to find a berth in Pier 21 Marina, a wonderfully friendly “boutique” Marina only minutes away from the City Centre. Coincidentally, one of our old buddies from Hardway was on holiday in New Zealand and it was so lovely to see Jane.
Vicki hadn’t seen her old mucker for
over 4 years so they had great fun catching up and enjoying the necessary
“Girlie Lunch”… Additionally, our Bank Manager came to see us !!! Jeanette is
married to a Kiwi and she was on holiday with her Mum so they popped over for a
cup of Tea – quite surreal to see her halfway around the World.
Sadly, one of Roger’s old Bank buddies, Charlie Newson,
had died while we were in Chile and he had very generously left a small bequest
which we put to very good use with a very decadent and lazy few days firstly in
a luxurious Auckland Hotel (where we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of
time in the huge Spa Bath).
We then took the Bus North up to Paihia where we
picked up Superted’s Car which Jean & Matt had kindly offered to lend to us
on the basis that we delivered it to Auckland ready for when they sailed down
from Opua. We took the car ferry over to Russell where we had booked ourselves
into the “Duke of Marlborough” Hotel on the waterfront which has the oldest
Liquor licence in the Country and is described as “serving Rascals &
Reprobates since 1827”.
Apparently, it changed it’s name from Johnny Johnstone’s Grog Shop in the 1830s as the then Duke of Marlborough was the World’s richest Man and the name sought to bring respect, elegance and opulence to the ‘hell-hole of the Pacific’. Indeed, it is still very elegant and we spent another couple of days relaxing and enjoying the bathtub – you have to remember that we had been at Sea since leaving Chile 9 months ago and hadn’t actually seen a bath since we left the Farm over a year ago….. So, a big “Thank You” to Charlie for spoiling us and enabling us to get really clean again.
We were missing the boys so much that we decided to get
a "doggy fix" and drove down to Tauranga to meet up with the only
Havanese Breeder in New Zealand - a charming lady called Lyn McLean of
Cubana Havanese. She had 5 gorgeous dogs and we walked away feeling so
lucky we had "discovered" the Breed by accident in Colorado. We couldn't
wait to get our own babies back...
Whilst we were in Tauranga, we also met up with Trevor & Jo who had left Malarkey in Australia, flown to NZ and bought a Caravan to tour NZ for a few months. We hadn't seen them since Tahiti so it was great to catch up on what they had been up to...
By the time we had driven back to Auckland and completed a bit of Retail Therapy, including Christmas shopping, it was time to collect the Kids from the kennels. In the end, they only had to complete 19 days Quarantine and it was so lovely to get them home again. We had really missed them and it was fantastic that they were back in time for Vicki’s birthday.
Once our boys were home, we left the Marina and headed off to explore the Hauraki Gulf, an area outside Auckland Harbour between Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsular. It is a great cruising area protected from all but Northerly winds and there are numerous Islands to explore. We really enjoyed Waiheke Island (also known as New Zealand’s “Island of Wine”) where there were numerous anchorages all with good holding and plenty of swinging room. We spent Christmas in a small anchorage called Rocky Bay and it was quite strange to have decent Christmas presents (including a new TV) after the last few years of homemade efforts!!
There are over 30 Vinyards on this small island, the nearest one to any
anchorage being Man O’ War which is just a short stroll across the
road from the beach and where we spent New Year’s Day enjoying their
Wine and Cheese platters.